The River Between

by

Ngugi wa Thiong’o

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The River Between: Chapter 15 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Waiyaki lays awake at night, wishing that he had a companion to share his hopes and fears with. He realizes this is the unnamed longing he has felt for so long. Twice, he tried to share such feelings with his mother, but he could not. He thinks of love, of the white people’s incursion into his country and the “disruption” it caused, and of Muthoni’s courage and death—the result of such disruption. The shape of a woman hovers in his mind.
Waiyaki’s need for a companion shows the conflict between his individual desires and his desire to serve his community. Much like Muthoni’s longing to become a real woman led her to go against her Christian community, Waiyaki’s longing for love will lead him to defy his community’s expectations.
Themes
Christianity, Tribal Customs, and Identity Theme Icon
Unity and Division Theme Icon
Waiyaki leaves his hut and walks out into the moonlight, yearning for someone to talk to. He feels burdened by his responsibility to serve the tribe and wishes he could be free of it. He thinks he will go to Makuyu to see Kamau, but when he makes his way down to the Honia river he finds Nyambura instead. Though he had seldom thought of her over the years, as soon as he meets her, he realizes that it was her shape lingering in his mind.
Waiyaki’s wish to be free of his burdensome responsibility suggests that being a savior is a difficult and unenviable position. The conflict that his obligation to the community poses with his personal desires suggests that such a role requires one to set aside their individual needs for the sake of a greater good.
Themes
Unity and Division Theme Icon
Nyambura knows that Joshua would be angry to see her standing with Waiyaki, but she has been lonely since Muthoni died. Though she obeys her father, she feels “cold” toward him and blames him for Muthoni’s death. Even if what Muthoni did was not right, Nyambura cannot truly accuse her sister of sin. Whenever Nyambura thinks of her sister, she thinks of Waiyaki too, since he had been there at her death. However, Nyambura knows little of him and finds him strange and unapproachable, though this could simply be because Waiyaki fears Joshua.
Nyambura blames Joshua for Muthoni’s death and cannot bring herself to condemn Muthoni, suggesting that she is beginning to break with Joshua’s view of the world. However, she still admits that Muthoni defying their father may have been wrong, indicating that she still feels bound to her family and community.
Themes
Christianity, Tribal Customs, and Identity Theme Icon
Waiyaki and Nyambura realize they are both walking to Makuyu, so they walk together. Waiyaki privately reflects that Nyambura is not circumcised, though he thinks this should not be a crime—they are both human beings after all. As they part, Waiyaki longs to touch her but “control[s] himself.” Instead, he invites her to visit his school tomorrow, and she accepts.
Nyambura’s uncircumcision symbolically reflects that she does not adhere to Gikuyu tribal tradition and does not share that identity. Waiyaki’s feeling that this should not be a crime suggests that he, too, is beginning to break with the rest of his tribe’s worldview.
Themes
Christianity, Tribal Customs, and Identity Theme Icon
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